Kauai, Hawaii

An oasis from the everyday chaos in our urban lives.  Up with the sun, down with the sun. We loved every aspect of our first trip to Kauai (May), so much so that we scheduled another for a few months later (October)! Of course, there is always the beach, surfing, paddleboarding, etc…but below are a few of my highlights from both trips, aside from the standard beach activities:

Type of Trip: Self Planned 

Hotel: St. Regis – GORGEOUS, luxury hotel on the north shore of the island.  They spared nothing in creating this beautiful hotel.  If you don’t stay here, then you must at least come for a sunset cocktail on the balcony – stunning views overlooking the ocean.

Transport: LAX-LIH (non-stop), then rental car at Advantage.  The first time we went, we tried to go cheap on the car and it was a mistake.  We rented at Fox.  Not only was it far off the airport, but it took an hour to leave the lot due to the sales associate trying to upsell us on every insurance policy (even after I had refused multiple times).  Advantage was a much smoother process and an easy return.

Activities:

  1. HIKING: Kauai has some epic hikes, many of which we have explored.  Our favorites (within an hour drive of the resort) were:
    • Nualolo Trail: (7.6 miles round trip) This hike in Waimea Canyon started out pretty rough.  The mud was slippery and you are mostly descending for the first half through covered forest (hence, poor traction led to multiple slips).
      img_7238

      Nualolo Trail

      If you wait it out, the trail opens up around mile 2.5 and then the extreme dropoffs begin!  It is gorgeous, and slightly frightening.  I have a fear of heights, so I almost couldn’t make it through.  Glad I did though, as the vista is crazy cool. We hiked back the same way. The Nualolo Cliff trail, which connects this hike to the Awaawapuhi Trail is closed due to erosion.  We hope to try the Awaawapuhi trail next trip.

    • Hanakapiai Falls Trail: (6.9 miles RT) This hike shares the first 2 miles with the famous Kalalau Trail (which you need to request a permit far in advance for).  After that, you head uphill to a massive waterfall.  We packed a small lunch, which we ate at the base of the falls.  A must do, especially if you do not have a permit for Kalalau.
    • Sleeping Giant:  (4 miles RT) This was a nice one, if time is an issue.  It was short and steep, with cool rock structures and views from the top.  We have done this one multiple times.
    • Secret Beach: It’s not really a secret…but you should go. Beautiful, expansive beach with huge cliffs behind you.
    • Okolehao Trail: (5+ miles RT) This one was aggressive as we couldn’t seem to locate the end…we hiked past the main vista viewpoint (2.5 miles) and continued into the rope-assisted trail.  It was muddy and didn’t seem to be much traveled.  The vistas leading up to this point were cool though, so next time we will likely stop there.
    • Wai Koa Loop: (5 mile loop) an easy, muddy trek that is all flat. It guides you through the botanical gardens.  Make sure to stop at the Stone Dam.  It’s like a little Garden of Eden.
    • Some other sites I found helpful: Full List and Top Five
  2. ADVENTURES:
    • Koloa Ziplining:  Super fun!  The guides were awesome and the ziplining cords are long and fast.  It cost around $150/each but we felt like it was one of the best activities we have done there.
    • Luau Kalamaku: We ordered discounted tickets HERE for around $95/each, which included dinner and the show.  It was totally touristy, but we enjoyed it.  I thought the food was fine but the show was a neat experience.  Either way, it gave us something different to do on our vacation!
    • Self-driving: We drove around the perimeter of the island to check out Waimea Canyon State Park.  The drive itself wasn’t that pretty but the views once you reach the canyon are indescribable.  It is not that dissimilar from overlooking to Grand Canyon.  fullsizerender-2
  3. RESTAURANTS:
    • Tiki Man Pizza: We really liked this place!  Went on a Saturday night, there was a good crowd and live music.  The pizza was fine, it was more about the atmosphere.
    • The Dolphin: felt overrated.  It was expensive sushi, and the service was slow and disorganized.  Not a favorite.
    • Bar Acuda: cool vibe, tapas.  Was expensive but nothing stood out to us.
    • Kilauea Fish Market: excellent fresh fish and poke!
    • Lighthouse Bistro: this was a favorite.  Romantic vibe but not overly done.  Our waitress made the dinner even better.  She was hilarious and honest about which items to order.
    • Foodland (Grocery): great spot to pick up a few items for hiking lunches, snacks and breakfast in your hotel room.  The sushi and coffee were great as well!
    • 9th Island Sports Pub & Grill: we were looking for a spot to watch the Cubs baseball game and stumbled across this gem.  Great crowd, solid bar food though they don’t have a liquor license.  However, they do let you go to the grocery store next door, buy beer and bring it into the pub at no cost!  Awesome spot to watch sports.
    • Kountry Style Kitchen: fabulous greasy spoon.  Breakfast was big and hearty.
    • Hideaways Pizza Pub: we were looking for a restaurant outside the hotel that we could walk to – this was it.  Despite the reviews, we thought it was just fine.  Lots of families with kids and local residents.
    • Tip Top Cafe: a bizarre favorite, near the Lihue airport.  Typical Hawaiian fare, we stopped here after landing both trips.  Full of locals and inexpensive.  We ordered the “surfer combo” (or something like that).  I still crave the macaroni salad.

Mahalo, Kauai!

 

 

 

 

 

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